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Monday, December 16

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Are you in the pink?

Pink wine doesn't have to suck. In fact, most of it outside the US is very tasty and cheap. There is a glorious world of dry (yes, dry!) rose wine out there that deserves your attention. Now I know many of you have gag reflex reactions to the sight of a blush pink liquid in your glass. No doubt, this is an involuntary reaction to memories of bad first dates over Cold Duck or company picnics with boxes of White Zinfandel. I understand. But please, please, please try a glass of a terrific dry rose this summer. I promise you will find no likeness to the watermelon Jolly Rancher flavors you get in the blush wines that haunted your early wine drinking days.

OK, first off — pink does not equal sweet. The color of a wine has no impact on its sweetness. The sweetness of a wine depends on the sugar levels of the harvested grapes and how much of that sugar is converted to alcohol. In most cases, winemakers make sure nearly all the sugar works its magic with the yeast to create the buzz-inducing potent part of vino. And the US is really the only country that produces large quantities of sweet pink wine. Most of Europe produces roses in a very dry style and celebrates their affinity with a variety of foods.

When dining in the south of France, you will observe seas of pink wine bottles beading sweat on the outdoor tables along every posh waterfront. These are some of the most stylish folks on the planet, for cryin' out loud, and they wouldn't drink anything else. Here's why:

1. It's hot outside. Chilled beverages just taste better during the summer — for the same reason a room temperature Guiness Stout may not be your beverage of choice after helping a friend move a couch to the third floor in August. Even light beer, as long as its cold, sounds better. Likewise, a brawny Bordeaux in your glass by the beach just doesn't sound as nice.

2. It tastes good with their food. Mediterranean foods may have plenty of seafood and vegetables, but they have strong flavors. Salad Niçe;oise or spicy seafood stews will stomp a wimpy white wine in a heartbeat. The beauty of rose is that you get some of the stronger flavors from the red skins of the grapes, but you can still serve it chilled. It's the perfect pairing for sassy outdoor dining, in France or on your patio.

3. It's cheap. Most roses in Europe are at the low end of table wine prices. Here in Chicago, they range from $6 to $15.

So, how do you get your hands on some of the "good" pink stuff?

You'll probably have to go to a real wine store; even the fancy pants grocery stores don't seem to carry them. These wines are somewhat seasonal in that most stores don't buy more than they think they can sell by Fall. They don't age well at all, so make sure you are getting the 2004 vintage of anything you buy. Also, many of these wines may be sold out by now, but they're worth a look. (Truth is, when I worked at Sam's, the employees bought most of the tasty roses for themselves as soon as they hit the shelf. I've always suspected that wine store employees account for 50 percent or more of all rose wine sales. Just a theory. Let me know if anyone has any hard numbers.) Don't cry if you can't find the exact one you want on the list that follows. Let your trusty wine salesperson direct you to one of their favorites.

Here are some tasting notes on some tasty roses I quaffed at a Rose-fest tasting with some friends. All are 2004 vintage. Now many of these tasting notes refer to sweet things. Don't freak out. These are simply descriptions of the wine's smell. The wines are all dry — I promise.

Chateau Grande Cassagne Costieres de Nimes, France
This Grenache-based wine is all slut and all good. One of the richest of the tasting. Light strawberry aromas with raspberry, violet, fruit punch and peach aromas. Super juicy and my favorite of the tasting. Sadly, I think I've bought everything left in the city. If you see me at a store reaching for one; stand down. I will throw elbows.

Mas de Bressades Costieres de Nimes, France
Mostly Syrah with some Grenache and Cinsault to round out its spice. Darker red in color than many; think Hi-C fruit punch. Aromatics are strong of cherry jam, cranberry and a hint of black pepper. Very tasty. Sip this with anything off the grill.

Chateau Mourges du Gres "Fleur d'Eglantine" Costieres de Nimes, France
Brilliant strawberry in color with aromas of white flowers, wild strawberries and a touch of maraschino cherry. Light and refreshing. Try it with a creamy cheese.

Chateau Guiot Costieres de Nimes, France
A Grenache/Syrah blend that packs plenty of spice. Love the cinnamon notes in this one, with over ripe berry and floral tones. I'd pair this one with some curry or a great tagine.

Chateau Revelette Coteau du Provence, France
Classic Rose de Provence. More light salmon in color, in great contrast to the fruit punch colored wines from the Costieres de Nimes. This is a more delicate and refined style. Lighter in body with traditional aromas of lavender and rosemary. Fruit is more tart — like cranberries — than the wines mentioned above. Perfect for your sophisticated and delicate dishes. I'm thinking seafood with fresh herbs.

Dievole Dievolino Rosato di Sangiovese IGT Toscana, Italy
Here's a Tuscan take on the dry rose, made from hometown hero — Sangiovese. This wine has a great start with a burst of tart cherry on the front of the palate, but sort of dies on the finish. Maybe our bottle was just a bit cranky? I'd try it again with some antipasta and salamis.

Pipoli Rose Basilicata IGT, Italy
This gorgeous little wine hails from the South of Italy and shows off the sassy side of their pride and joy grape, Aglianico. The nose was a symphony of summer flower aromas with a good punch of black pepper. Coriander, orange peel, balsamic vinegar, strawberries and lavender all came into play. Exotic and worth a hunt.

U Mes U Fan Tres (1+1+3) Rosato Penedes, Spain
This complex and rich rose showed notes of blackberries, cocoa and cured meats with plenty of cranberry fruit. This would easily hold up to strong meats on the grill or a great salami and cheese platter.

Mulderbosch Rose Stellenbosch, South Africa
A Cabernet Sauvignon rose made with light berry notes and a touch of violet. Light and tasty.

Some of my other favorites year to year are listed below. Expect to pay more for the California offerings.

Regaliali Rose IGT, Sicilia, Italy
Marques de Caceras Rose, La Rioja, Spain
Bonny Doon Vin Gris, Santa Cruz, California
Sanford Pinot Noir-Vin Gris, Santa Rita Hills, California
Swanson Rosato, Napa Valley, California

So, now you are in the know. Hold your glass of rose with confidence at the wine bar. Gesture grandly with your fabulous and fashionable quaff, for you are definitely... in the pink.

Christine Blumer is the owner of Winediva Enterprises, a private wine education and events company. She writes for several culinary and wine magazines and produces a monthly e-newsletter, Diva Dish. Subscribe via email to winedivaentmsncom or visit www.winedivaent.com.

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About the Author(s)

Christine Blumer is the owner of Winediva Enterprises, a private wine education and events company. She writes for several culinary and wine magazines and produces a monthly e-newsletter, Diva Dish. Subscribe via email to winedivaentmsncom or visit www.winedivaent.com.

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